A Few Ways Of Looking At Atlantic City

It can be the right kind of fun, but the steep drop from glittery artifice to gritty despair in Atlantic City is enough to make even the most contented reflect a little.

Across the street lies the baffling gaze of a woman, gripping the edge of her lawn-chair and cigarette at the same time.  Her peeled, faded porch displays a ‘For Rent’ sign.

Tourist towns, for me, have an air of the superficial and sad, despite the amenities and excitement they promise.  There always seems to be a lack of the local, as the locals must cater to tourists, coming and going.  What Atlantic City had going for it was trying to be the East Coast’s premier destination for gambling.  It’s since been mostly in decline from that holy peak.

Perhaps, in my early twenties (the last time I was there), I was looking for something like bittersweet confirmation of my oh-so-earnest impressions of how-the-world-really-is.  It was done with more than a little melancholic self-regard (apparently I haven’t changed that much).

Yeah, I can handle it.  I only lost $200 and we got to see Jon Bon Jovi playing craps as a crowd gathered (leather-jacket, surprisingly big head).

Glitzy:

No, dear reader, I haven’t suddenly joined the barely organized, deeply personal hatred of a man who thwarts political activism and idealism in crude, populist fashion.

I can’t really say I support him all that much either (although I think a lot of the right people are pissed-off).

For the sake of our Republic, I hope Trump’s a decent steward, because I suspect the forces driving deep institutional dysfunction and mistrust are probably still growing, and maintaining our freedoms will be difficult.  It could get quite a bit worse before anything gets better (maybe pretty bad, I’m afraid).

Sorry to not just focus on serious questions and policy, and to blather and link on a blog, but I’ve got a life and a job.  Writing for money seems…compromising, and my writing isn’t all that great, and my insights are nearly always second-hand, anyways.

I’m thankful when a few dozen people read what I’ve bothered to think and write down.

Really, thank you:

From ‘Atlantic City Waiter’ by Countee Cullen

Just one stanza might do, to show there are many eyes you see, that may also see you:

‘For him to be humble who is proud
Needs colder artifice;
Though half his pride is disavowed,
In vain the sacrifice.’

As previously posted, and probably relevant enough to post here: Bowling Alone and Charles Murray:

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***A reader passed along this bit of news: ‘Black Trump supporter beats white anti-Trump protester…’

A new kind of populism?

Charles Murray argues that controlling the data for just for whites in America, a gap has opened up between working-class ‘Fishtown’ and professional-class ‘Belmont.’ Fishtowners have increasing rates of out-of-wedlock births and divorce, more isolation from churches, civic organizations and the kinds of voluntary associations that Murray suggests can make a life more fulfilling, regardless of income beyond certain basic needs. Fishtowners have higher incidences of drug and alcohol use and intermittent work.

Belmonters, on the other hand, are mostly college-educated and beyond, still tend to court, marry, engage in family planning and tend to stay connected with family, friends and colleagues. Folks in Belmont are still living more moderate personal lives and working to stay ahead in the changing economy through academia, the professions, government, tech, business and global business.

Being a social scientist with a more limited government/small ‘c’ conservative/libertarian worldview, Murray likely sees a smaller role for government and limited ways in which some people acting through government can actually solve problems in other people’s lives. As a contrarian social scientist in a small minority, then, he disagrees with many basic assumptions often found amongst a majority of social scientists.

Murray thus advocates for people in ‘Belmont’ to increasingly preach what they practice, to look outside the bubble of their daily lives and wealthier enclaves, and perhaps reconstitute the kinds of family and civic associations, moral virtues and opportunities for independence and success he’d like to see more broadly.

What this would look like in practice, exactly, is unclear.

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Robert Putnam, author of ‘Bowling Alone‘, seems to agree with Murray about what much of what the data highlights: Working-class whites are behaving more like working-class non-whites, and college-educated non-whites are behaving more like college-educated whites.

Putnam also focuses more on economic factors, the decline of manufacturing and the disappearance of working-class jobs that has without question affected large parts of America and small-town life. Globalization has opened American firms to global competition, global capital markets and mobile labor. Whatever your thoughts on race, Putnam creates some daylight between the data and strictly race based interpretations (often aligned with ideology, especially in academia nowadays) and focuses more on ‘class’ in a way slightly differently than does Murray.

An interesting discussion, in which the empirical research of social science can highlight important differences in political philosophy and try and transcend the inevitable political and ideological battles of the day.

Henry Kissinger At CapX: ‘Chaos And Order In A Changing World’

Full piece here.

A rundown on global politics led by a comparison with what was facing British leadership under Margaret Thatcher, as applied to Russia, China, and the Middle East.

Kissinger:

‘She put forward challenges which, in their essence, are even more urgent today:

  • Should Russia be regarded as a potential threat or a partner?
  • Should NATO turn its attention to “out of area” issues?
  • Should NATO admit the new democracies of Central Europe with full responsibilities as quickly as prudently possible?
  • Should Europe develop its own “defense identity” in NATO?’

Click through a brief analysis of each of the ‘out of area’ players.  The more things change, the more they stay the same.

He finishes with:

If the West stays engaged without a geo-strategic plan, chaos will grow. If it withdraws in concept or in fact—as has been the temptation over the past decade—great powers like China and India, which cannot afford chaos along their borders or turmoil within them, will gradually step into the West’s place together with Russia. The pattern of world politics of recent centuries will be overthrown.

Kissinger has been consistent in applying a lifetime of experience in diplomacy and the halls of power, profound Kantian-influenced idealism, and high ambition in providing grand visions and strategies of world players and events.

As he points out, each ethnic group, nation state and civilization has its own history, character, internal struggles and challenges.  It would serve American decision-makers well to have some awareness of who we’re dealing with, as many of these players have interests in direct conflict with American, Anglosphere and Western interests.

Imagine you are getting the daily intel briefings describing Russian meddling and constant attempts to destabilize American institutions (Cold War games go on, comrade), or the constant state-sponsored Chinese attempts to probe and hack American business and national defense interests.  It’s par for the course and everybody does it!

Imagine someone’s advising you of Iranian regime-support of nuclear black-market technology-swapping and terrorism against American assets and interests throughout the Middle-East (wow, there are some nasty people in Tehran).

The Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment West is probably still in an export phase of influence, but others do not necessarily think as we do, and the world can be a pretty dangerous, lawless and challenging place.

As previously posted: On Niall Ferguson’s new Biography (Kissinger’s probably such a bogeyman to some on the Left because he has an aroma of the heretic, or someone who broke with the ideals, or compromised)- ‘Kissinger: Volume I: The Idealist.1923-1968:’

FT review. 

The Economist

Previously on this site:

Henry Kissinger and Brent Scowcroft here, long before any Iran dealing:

A good background and synopsis of American/Iranian diplomacy, and of the Iranian regime’s likely aims to become a Shia-led, anti-American/Western Islamist Republic dominating the Middle-East with deliverable nukes:

‘Some adjustments are inherent in the inevitable process of historic evolution. But we must avoid an outcome in which Iran, freed from an onerous sanctions regime, emerges as a de facto nuclear power leading an Islamist camp, while traditional allies lose confidence in the credibility of American commitments and follow the Iranian model toward a nuclear-weapons capability, if only to balance it.

Future generations’ prospects and American blood is still on the line.

Robert Kagan At Brookings: ‘The Twilight Of the Liberal World Order’

Some thoughts on Fukuyama and Leo Strauss: Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Francis Fukuyama uses some Hegel and Samuel Huntington…just as Huntington was going against the grain of modernization theory…:Newsweek On Francis Fukuyama: ‘The Beginning Of History’Francis Fukuyama At The American Interest Online: ‘Political Order in Egypt’

How does America lead or pursue its interests in this new landscape?:  We need to confront the rise of Islamism and the realities of many Muslim societies through our policy.  Putting women’s rights and international institutions front and center when you’re dealing with Al Qaida and the Taliban, assorted enemies, a suspicious China and a weaker adversarial Russia has serious problems …Via Youtube-Uncommon Knowledge With Fouad Ajami And Charles Hill…Daniel Deudney tries to build a global raft partially upon Kant’s idealism and says the global institutions we’ve got are better than nothing: Repost-Daniel Deudney On YouTube Responding to Robert Kagan: ‘Liberal Democracy Vs. Autocracy’

Via Another Reader-Christopher Caldwell On Europe & Immigration-It’s Much Better When Things Are Discussed Openly

Caldwell filters conceptions of how a society should [be] through a Burkean lens.-‘Reflections On The Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam & The West

From the Mark Steyn show:

There’s a sober realism, reasonable use of statistics, and deeper analysis I find appealing:  The number of immigrants each country can absorb is ever in flux and dispute, but it likely has limits.  When problems of immigration are backed into as they have been for a few generations (cheap labor, post WWII exhaustion and colonial guilt), harder choices and worse outcomes loom.

European birth rates are low, European economies are relatively more static and weaker than ours, and the political ideals and sentiment at work in Europe seem capable of uniting only to produce many of the problems at hand.

Political leaders frequently elide questions of basic security (Islamic/ist terror), numbers (of immigrants and incentives), as well as the shortcomings and failures of large, top-down bureaucratic institutions to develop legitimate authority and properly allow individuals to mediate their own challenges locally.

Douglas Murray’s ‘The Strange Death Of Europe: Immigration, Identity & Islam‘ is reviewed here.

What say you?

Addition: Or as a friend puts it: ‘How much of this is true?’

Interview with Caldwell at Der Spiegel, from a while ago.

See Also On This Site: A review of Caldwell’s book:  From The NY Times: Review Of Christopher Caldwell’s Book “Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam, and the West”

Are secular humanism and the kind of political freedoms we enjoy in the West really incompatible with Islam?:  From YouTube: Roger Scruton On Religious Freedom, Islam & Atheism

Are we becoming more like Europe, or is this too a false premise?:  Charles Murray Lecture At AEI: The Happiness Of People

Ayan Hirsi Ali is a Muslim immigrantto Europe, who seems quite populist and anti-Islam:  Ayan Hirsi Ali At The CSM: ‘Swiss Ban On Minarets Was A Vote For Tolerance And Inclusion’

A Few Crime Links, Easy To Post

Hey, I can’t complain.  My car got broken into a few years back (they took some valuables and made off with some empty luggage in the trunk).  A guy got shot not that far away, too, a year after that.  A single shot on a Sunday afternoon (a bit shocking, really), which was rumored to be part of a low-level drug-deal gone bad in a nearby neighborhood complex.  All in all, a pretty safe neighborhood, especially since then.

Via David Thompson-Chicago Murder Stats in one place.

Where not to go in San Francisco?

Say what you will about racial history in the U.S, and all the thorny problems that come with it.  Criminals, victims of crime, police officers and private citizens carry on.

Heather MacDonald: ‘The War On Cops’. C-Span interview with MacDonald on the book here.  She also points out that Compstat isn’t really going anywhere: ‘Prosecution Gets Smart:

Computational Criminology And Predictive Policing.

‘Computational criminology seeks to address criminological problems through the use of applied mathematics, computer science and criminology. Methods include algorithms, data mining, data structures and software development.’

Limited Resources + Potentially Imminent Risk/Harm + Repeat Offenders/Learned Skills + Violence + Lots Of Room For Error = Too Much Practical Upside To Not Adopt Additional Means Of Fighting Crime.

Via Marginal Revolution: ‘Neural Network Learns To Identify Criminals By Their Faces

Mildly To Marginally Related: American city-politics can be…pretty rough:

Why do people move to cities?  Well, there are a lot of reasons.

Walter Russell Mead has a series built upon the argument that the ‘blue’ progressive social model (building the Great Society) is defunct because America will have to adjust to new economic and global realities. In the [then] current post, he focuse[d] on the part of the model that creates and directs government agencies to try and alleviate inner-city poverty and its problems.

Making normative the more anarchic, transgressive and illegal, as some radical activist thought becomes mainstream

Repost-Hipster Romanticism? From The Atlantic Photo: ‘Adventures Of A Serial Trespasser’A Little More On 5pointz, Activism, And The Meaning Being Sought By Some

Milton Friedman Via Youtube: ‘Responsibility To The Poor’

Jonathan Bronitsky At The National Interest: ‘The Vanity Of Bernhard Henri-Levy’

At least Henri-Levy’s pointing out the deep anti-semitism often found in the Muslim world, among many Muslim immigrants in Europe, and often laced throughout both fascist Right and Left movements in Europe, where it can emerge as a motivating political force.

But French, post-ish radical intellectual rockstars looking for something like secular humanist universal salvation?

Bronitsky:

‘TO GRASP the impetus behind Lévy’s latest effusion, one must first recognize that Lévy is a disillusioned radical soulfully seeking atonement. The book is part of a very personal and protracted effort to construct and disseminate an outlook, a disposition, an anti-ideology capable of defeating the dogmas that deceived him during his youth.’

Full post and brief written interview here at Guernica on anti-Semitism & Fascism.

Perhaps we simply aren’t ready for Henri-Levy’s more libertine, radical, French liberalism, which he displayed by coming over in the spirit of Tocqueville and pissing on the sides of our highways.   Why, he even helped Obama and Hillary Clinton pursue a course of action in Libya.

Also Related On This Site:

The radical and rationalist project, anarcho-syndicalism and libertarian socialism: Repost-From Michael Totten At World Affairs: “Noam Chomsky: The Last Totalitarian”

How might this relate to the Heglian/post-Marxist project via ‘The End Of History’: Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Via Youtube-‘Week 2 Leo Strauss-The Three Waves Of Modernity’

Two Terror Links

Heather MacDonald at the City Journal: ‘Giving Terrorists A Heads Up:

Reality and human nature haven’t gone away, nor has the threat of terrorism.  It’s just being absorbed by other individuals and institutions further on down the chain, in many cases.

‘A bill in New York’s city council would require the New York Police Department to reveal crucial details about every surveillance technology that the department uses to detect terrorism and crime.’

It’s not right when anyone does it, obviously (I stand with genuine victims):

Unfortunately, we now have much establishment conventional wisdom simply unable to report frequency, facts, perpetrators and the connection between Islam and terrorism as openly as plainly as possible, respecting the citizens they serve enough to make up their own minds (including Muslims).

This tends to push the problem underground, where effects are often confused with causes, and deeper tensions emerge, and perhaps in more volatile fashion.

Respect for legitimate authority is undermined, as less legitimate authority consolidates itself and keeps passing the buck.  Language loses its precision.

A tense relationship: Fareed Zakaria At Newsweek: ‘Terrorism’s Supermarket’Christopher Hitchens At Vanity Fair: ‘From Abbotabad To Worse’Repost-’Dexter Filkins In The NY Times: The Long Road To Chaos In Pakistan’

From Slate: ‘In Aleppo, Syria, Mohamed Atta Thought He Could Build The Ideal Islamic City’From The NY Times: Review Of Christopher Caldwell’s Book “Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam, and the West”

Repost: Kenan Malik In The Spiked Review Of Books: ‘Twenty Years On: Internalizing The Fatwa’-Salman Rushdie’Paul Berman At The New Republic: ‘From September 11 to the Arab Spring: Do Ideas Matter?’From Foreign Affairs: ‘Al Qaeda After Attiyya’….From The AP: ‘Al-Awlaki: From Voice For Jihad To Al-Qaida Figure’From Slate: ‘In Aleppo, Syria, Mohamed Atta Thought He Could Build The Ideal Islamic City’From The NY Times: Review Of Christopher Caldwell’s Book “Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam, and the West”And: Philip Bobbitt Discusses His Book ‘Terror And Consent’ On Bloggingheads

Repost-The Duran Duran Phenomenon, High And Low Art In The Modern Anglo-Sphere

For you kids out there, Duran Duran are a band from Birmingham, England who made it big in the 80’s. They succeeded with genuine musical talent, technical and marketing prowess, a new-romantic visual-style, and presumably, somewhat deeper artistic aspirations.

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There are, no doubt, trade-offs people in the Anglosphere make, living with our particular Anglo-focus upon government, law, trade, and generally speaking, more open markets. There are reasons English is spoken so widely, after all, while the food has remained so bad.

Traveling abroad while younger, I often observed the American genius as a kind of egalitarian gathering of talent; general and specialized, ambitious and organized.

Such ‘Americanness’ can be shrewd, though it often comes with a certain optimism and idealism, for which Americans are known.

This is the stuff of American diplomacy, international lawyering, and business management. American advertising techniques, Hollywood movies, franchises like Starbucks and Apple, all can earn almost instant global recognition (if you’re not too far off the beaten path).

As an American, I claim a certain pride, here.

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That said, deeper artistic aspirations also tend to seek nourishment apart from such commercial populism and American egalitarianism in particular.

The accomplished artist probably had a lot of natural talent to begin with, but also joins in conversation with serious past talent and endures critique of his development, spends years of life engaged in hard work, and perhaps profits from greater tilt in the culture towards admiration for artists in general.

See: ‘Tradition And The Individual Talent’

This can send many American artists out on a mission to gain technique and skills elsewhere. This can fill many American cultural critics with a sense of European yearning and envy, and this can leave some Americans indulging in rather cheap, unimaginative commercialist America-bashing that usually lines-up with preconceived political/ideological commitments.

It’s here in the modern to postmodern to wherever-we’re-heading-now that, as an American, I find much of my daily life being lived.

For me and many of my fellows, the latest shows, pop-music, games and movies are the culture, even though we all have deeper ambitions and aspirations, and even if much of that culture has deeper roots of which we remain unaware.

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Here’s Robert Hughes from The Guardian on Damien Hirst: ‘Day Of The Dead’

‘If there is anything special about this event, it lies in the extreme disproportion between Hirst’s expected prices and his actual talent. Hirst is basically a pirate, and his skill is shown by the way in which he has managed to bluff so many art-related people, from museum personnel such as Tate’s Nicholas Serota to billionaires in the New York real-estate trade, into giving credence to his originality and the importance of his “ideas”. This skill at manipulation is his real success as an artist. He has manoeuvred himself into the sweet spot where wannabe collectors, no matter how dumb (indeed, the dumber the better), feel somehow ignorable without a Hirst or two.’.

I’m guessing Hughes loathed such confusion over money, art, fame, and our deepest aspirations, and thought such an approach prevents everyday people from entering into conversations with the everyday in great works of art. I find myself attracted to his marriage of Anglo-tradition and more ‘high’ European art-criticism.

For my part, I’d simply argue that more open markets in the Anglo-sphere offer a lower bar to reach a larger audience with one’s artistic ambitions. Such a marriage of art + market may be less likely to happen, in, say, Spain or France.

Perhaps this is true of Duran Duran, Damien Hirst, and various others with some natural talent and access to a wider audience through a global supply-chain.

This lower bar, in turn, can allow for perhaps more questionable art and marketing jargon; postmodern concept-shilling and various bullshit promising freedom within stale ideology and often poorly-executed art.

Or, at least, the above comes with its own Anglo-character.

(Addition: I should add that it gives more people easier access to make and gain exposure to the arts, which benefits a lot more people, but also puts the artist, and modernists, especially, in tension with the really hard task of making something beautiful which can last. Does good art have to be hard, and be made free of ‘The People?,’ or at least the passing fads, genres and styles that come and go?)

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Thanks to a reader for the link:

From The Daily Beast: ‘Get Into Bed With Tracey Emin For $2 million: The Sale Of A British Art Icon.’

“My Bed” will be sold at auction at Christie’s on July 1, and has been given an estimate price of between £800,000 and £1.2m (approximately $1.35 million to $2 million), which seems astonishingly low given the piece’s cultural impact. Indeed, David Maupin, Emin’s dealer in New York who sold the bed to Saatchi in 2000 for £150,000 (about $252,000), has said he thinks the Christie’s estimate is too low. “It’s historic. It’s priceless.”

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‘Cultural impact.’ So, a lot of people noticed it? It took a lot of technical skill? People were shocked by it? People had a strong reaction after seeing it in person?

It made her a celebrity?

I generally prefer the art dealer’s self-interested marketing bulls**t to a journalist’s ‘cultural impact’ claptrap.

Quote found here at friesian.com:

‘Oddly enough, it is the intellectual snobbery and elitism of many of the literati that politically correct egalitarianism appeals to; their partiality to literary Marxism is based not on its economic theory but on its hostility to business and the middle class. The character of this anti-bourgeois sentiment therefore has more in common with its origin in aristocratic disdain for the lower orders than with egalitarianism.’

Related: From Darwinian Conservatism: Nietzsche-Aristocratic Radical or Aristocratic Liberal?

Another pomo quote from Dr. Stephen Hicks:

‘In the shorter term, postmodernism has caused an impoverishment of much of the academic humanities, both in the quality of the work being done and the civility of the debates. The sciences have been less affected and are relatively healthy. The social sciences are mixed.

I am optimistic, though, for a couple of reasons. One is that pomo was able to entrench itself in the second half of the twentieth century in large part because first-rate intellectuals were mostly dismissive of it and focused on their own projects. But over the last ten years, after pomo’s excesses became blatant, there has been a vigorous counter-attack and pomo is now on the defensive. Another reason for optimism is that, as a species of skepticism, pomo is ultimately empty and becomes boring. Eventually intellectually-alert individuals get tired of the same old lines and move on. It is one thing, as the pomo can do well, to critique other theories and tear them down. But that merely clears the field for the next new and intriguing theory and for the next generation of energetic young intellectuals.

So while the postmodernism has had its generation or two, I think we’re ready for the next new thing – a strong, fresh, and positive approach to the big issues, one that of course takes into account the critical weapons the pomo have used well over the last while’